Steve Jobs & The Danish Girl Early Reviews: The Oscar Race Begins

Awards season is just around the corner in Hollywood, but already the conversation has started about certain Oscar contenders in 2015, following their debuts on the film festival circuit. One such project is Steve Jobs, which made a splash with its showing at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival; meanwhile, The Danish Girl likewise made an impression with its debut at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.

Steve Jobs, for those unaware, is a biographical film about the eponymous Apple co-founder, as was scripted by Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (127 Hours). Danish Girl is also a biopic (albeit, a semi-fictionalized one) about the transgender artist and pioneer Lili Elbe, as directed by Oscar-winner Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) and starring Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything). There's a trend here, as you no doubt noticed.

Steve Jobs

Jobs' real-life partner and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who is played by Seth Rogen in Boyle's film, has already praised Steve Jobs as being true to the spirit of its subject. That likewise appears to be the consensus among most published Steve Jobs reviews so far, as the film is being lauded for its sharp, rapid-fire, dialogue and unconventional script structure - where each of its three narrative acts revolves around a key Apple product launch in a manner that already has people making Birdman comparison - as well as the ensemble cast's strong performances (in particular by Michael Fassbender as Mr. Jobs himself). However, like its namesake, Steve Jobs has also been criticized for being perhaps too bold, brash, and determined to break new ground for its own good.

You can check out the Steve Jobs trailer below, followed by excerpts from some of the reviews that have been published so far (click the respective links for the full reviews):

THR - Todd McCarthy

How do you get to the bottom of a character like Steve Jobs, a figure so towering and complex that he could arguably serve as the basis of a film as ambitious as Citizen Kane? If you’re a dramatist with the character insight and verbal dexterity of Aaron Sorkin, you make him the vortex of a swirling human hurricane... Racing in high gear from start to finish, Danny Boyle’s electric direction tempermentally complements Sorkin’s highly theatrical three-act study, which might one day be fascinating to experience in a staged setting.

Variety - Justin Change

[“Steve Jobs”] is a bravura backstage farce, a wildly creative fantasia in three acts in which every scene plays out as a real-time volley of insults and ideas — insisting, with sometimes gratingly repetitive sound and fury, that Jobs’ gift for innovation was perhaps inextricable from his capacity for cruelty. Straining like mad to be the “Citizen Kane” (or at least the “Birdman”) of larger-than-life techno-prophet biopics, this is a film of brash, swaggering artifice and monumental ego, a terrific actors’ showcase and an incorrigibly entertaining ride that looks set to be one of the fall’s early must-see attractions.

Time Out - David Ehrlich

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin... outdoes his work on The Social Network with an even sharper and more savage script [while] director Danny Boyle... does his best to stay out of sight, but whenever he shows his hand, you want to smack it away. Combining the entrepreneurial narcissism of Slumdog Millionaire with the backstage mania of Birdman, Steve Jobs squeezes the Apple founder's outsized persona into three discrete story sections... Michael Fassbender, whose lightning-in-a-bottle performance has distilled the CEO into a nasal whine and a merciless attention to detail, sinks deeper into the role as Jobs develops into the icon he would ultimately become.

Indiewire - Eric Kohn

[Steve Jobs] director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin... who share a penchant for fast-paced developments and vibrant characters, stick Jobs in a room and explore his jittery personality from every angle. A kind of "Birdman" for the tech sector, "Steve Jobs" follows its subject around backstage environments in the frenetic moments leading up to a series of highly publicized presentations. While at times too over-the-top and operatic for its own good, those same flawed ingredients echo the rough edges that define the movie's iconic subject.

The Guardian - Benjamin Lee

[Danny Boyle's direction has] a stronger focus on performances over his trademark flashiness... But, like the actors, he also plays second fiddle to Sorkin’s dominating script. There’s undeniable craftsmanship here, especially in Fassbender’s confident and transformative performance, but Sorkin’s script fails to shout and quip its way to anything approaching dramatic vibrancy.

The Danish Girl

Danish Girl - reuniting Hooper and Redmayne after their work together on the Les Misérables musical adaptation - arrives at a time when transgender issues are getting more public attention than ever; as such, most of the Danish Girl reviews published already zero in on that point. Those same critics seem to agree, though: the subject matter and another sensitive Redmayne performance aside, Danish Girl could easily be mistaken for being any other prestigious historical drama that Hollywood has put out in theaters, for award seasons past. However, the accessibility of the movie has also earned it credit from critics, who argue that The Danish Girl's "Intro to Transgenderism" approach might well be for the best.

You can check out the Danish Girl trailer below, followed by excerpts from some of the reviews that have been published so far (click the respective links for the full review):

Variety - Peter Debruge

[Eddie] Redmayne gives the greatest performance of his career so far, infinitely more intimate — and far less technical — than the already stunning turn as Stephen Hawking that so recently won him the Oscar. Reuniting with “Les Miserables” director Tom Hooper in a return to the handsome, mostly interior style of the helmer’s Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech,” Redmayne finds himself at the heart — one shared by Alicia Vikander, as Einar’s wife, Gerda — of what’s destined to be the year’s most talked-about arthouse phenomenon.

The Wrap - Alonso Duralde

Following the hidebound, Oscar-friendly stodginess of “The King’s Speech” and “Les Misérables,” director Tom Hooper shakes things up a bit with “The Danish Girl,” proving that he’s capable of making a movie that’s both steeped in awards-season prestige and in possession of a pulse. Arriving at an interesting moment in pop culture’s representations of the transgender movement, “The Danish Girl” offers a lush and somewhat stodgy aesthetic that will nonetheless reach an audience who could benefit from it; grandparental types who would never watch “Transparent,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “I Am Jazz” or even “I Am Cait” might find themselves settling in for a Sunday matinee and coming out having learned something about gender identity.

THR - David Rooney

The correctness and careful sensitivity of the film's approach seem somehow a limitation in an age when countless indie and cable TV projects dealing with thematically related subject matter have led us to expect a little more edge. But if the movie remains safe, there's no questioning its integrity, or the balance of porcelain vulnerability and strength that Eddie Redmayne brings to the lead role. Leaving aside complaints in the LGBTQ community about the lack of authenticity or courage in having a cisgender actor portray transgender experience, the film's reluctance to shock or offend will no doubt boost its appeal for middlebrow arthouse audiences.

Indiewire - Jessica Kiang

Social change starts on the fringes, but it needs films like "The Danish Girl" to push those issues in from the sides to the middle, and to normalize them for a mainstream audience... So yes, we might wish there were less of the feeling of [Tom] Hooper... to tell [a] story about how a person who looks and talks and lives as a man might actually be a woman. But "The Danish Girl" is so primly told [and] it treads so delicately around even the most conservative sensibilities, that it might just work to change some minds, which makes it valuable in a way an edgier, swifter, more urgent, individual, or exciting film (for it is none of those things) might not be.

The Guardian - Jonathan Romney

[No] doubt this sumptuously mounted, high-minded and unabashedly Oscar-baiting undertaking will overall emerge dripping with honours. But well-meaning and polished as it is, The Danish Girl is a determinedly mainstream melodrama that doesn’t really offer new perspectives its theme; and in the year of Caitlyn Jenner, it’s a theme on which mainstream audiences are ready for more trenchant insight.


Steve Jobs opens in U.S. theaters on October 9th, 2015. The Danish Girl begins a limited theatrical release state-side on November 27th, 2015.

Source: Various (see the above links)

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Steve Jobs & The Danish Girl Early Reviews: The Oscar Race Begins